(CNN) – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid calls Sen. Jim Bunning's one-man opposition to a jobless benefits extension a filibuster. But Bunning, R-Kentucky, says that's not the case since he's merely blocking a bill before it's introduced. A filibuster is when "you talk and talk and talk," Bunning insists. So who's right?
Fact Check: Is Sen. Jim Bunning's effort to block an unemployment benefit extension a filibuster?
Get the facts and the bottom line after the jump:
- Bunning told fellow senators, "It's not a filibuster if you object, and that ought to be brought out clearly. A filibuster is when you stand on this floor and you talk and talk and talk. I have not done that." He has blocked the measure repeatedly since last week, insisting that lawmakers find money in the budget to pay for it, rather than running up the deficit.
- Senate Historian Donald Ritchie says there is no official definition for a filibuster, as far as the Senate is concerned. But it has always been a popular term that has come to mean "any tactic that prevents a majority from coming to a vote on an issue." He says it can take the form of speaking for long periods or voting against cloture motions, which are needed to end debate and allow the legislation to come up for a vote.
- The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines filibuster simply as "the use of extreme dilatory tactics in an attempt to delay or prevent action, especially in a legislative assembly."
- The term originated in the early to mid-19th century, coming from a Dutch word "vrijbuiter" meaning "freebooter" or "pirate," according to Ritchie. He says newspapers began using it to describe lawmakers seizing or blocking legislation, and it stuck.
- Ritchie notes there are no "party" positions on what is considered a filibuster, and lawmakers' views are shaped mainly by their majority or minority status.
Bottom Line: According to the definitions provided by the dictionary and a Senate historian, Bunning's opposition to the unemployment extension measure amounts to a filibuster. No rambling speeches dragging into the night required.
–CNN's Lisa Desjardins and Evan Glass contributed to this Fact Check.